As with cows in the dairy industry, sheep dairy farmers separate lambs from their mothers in order to sell their milk for profit. They send most males, who can’t make milk, to slaughter; female lambs may see the same, or become breeding ewes just like their moms. Life and death is sadly just business as usual.
At Farm Sanctuary, we believe each sheep is someone, not something. We wish all farm animals could be viewed this way—but unfortunately, for the rest of the farmer’s original flock, it wasn’t so simple. County rules allow up to two weeks for people to file for repossession of seized animals; since the farmer didn’t reclaim the first 19 sheep, Animal Control retained custody and released them to us. Angered by this loss, he decided to fight for a second group of six that had been removed from the property afterwards.
Shockingly, the farmer had a case. Despite 50 sheep having died from his neglect, and the severe malnutrition of the already-rescued survivors, we entered into a weeks-long custody battle to secure this group of six. Luckily, we won—but unfortunately, the farmer can still keep the rest of his flock, since their treatment aligns with industry standards (few laws exist to protect livestock like sheep, and the abuse they sustained was considered normal). While we wish we could save them all, we are thankful that 25 sheep have new lives ahead of them.
All incoming animals go through a mandatory quarantine to assess their health status, and to ensure that any diseases they have don’t spread around our established residents. Standard protocols for sheep include scans for Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP), which can cause degenerative lung and joint issues, and Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), which causes abscess formation throughout the body. While these diseases are chronic (and often devastating) conditions, sheep that have them can still live long and relatively healthy lives. This can make placement difficult, though, because not all homes are equipped or comfortable caring for animals with special healthcare needs.
Tests indicated that about half of the sheep had these diseases, and half did not. Most are healthy enough for placement; the rest—Abby, Ada, Anne, Antonia, Aretha, Katherine, Malala, and Shirley—were to remain at Farm Sanctuary to receive specialized care. When placing animals, we are very careful about keeping bonded groups together. It worked out that there is little crossover between OPP and CL positive and negative animals, so we easily placed bonded groups based on their forever families’ needs and preferences. It is just as important for our FAAN families to feel comfortable and happy, and we love watching their new lives together unfold!